Jones faces nearly $1.5 billion in court sentences for spreading lies about the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary.
Far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has filed for bankruptcy after US courts ordered the Infowars host to pay nearly $1.5 billion for spreading lies about the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
Jones filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a court in Houston, Texas, on Friday. The filing states that Jones has $1 billion to $10 billion in liabilities and $1 million to $10 million in assets.
For years, Jones claimed that the 2012 murder of 20 students and six Sandy Hook staff members was a hoax and that many of the victims were “actors” employed by the government.
Jones has since acknowledged that the shooting was “100 percent real,” but the victims’ grieving relatives said they were harassed and threatened for years, even with death threats, from people who believed Jones’ lies.
In October, a Connecticut jury awarded families who sued Jones $965 million in damages, following weeks of anguished testimony from loved ones of the dead who said their lives had been destroyed by Jones’ lies.
“Each of these families [was] drowning in grief, and Alex Jones put his foot right on it,” the lawyer representing the families told the jurors.
Earlier this year, a Texas jury also awarded the families $49 million, and in November a judge ordered Jones to pay the families an additional $473 million, bringing the total to nearly $1.5 billion.
Jones’ bankruptcy filing temporarily halted proceedings in the Connecticut case and prompted a judge to cancel a hearing that was scheduled to be held Friday morning.
The hearing would have involved the Sandy Hook families’ request that the assets of Jones and his company be seized to secure money for the damages, the Associated Press news agency reported.
Jones has claimed he cannot pay the fines and the extent of his personal wealth is not clear. However, an economist on the Texas case estimated Jones’ personal worth at between $135 million and $270 million.
Jones’ company, Free Speech Systems, also filed for bankruptcy in July.
Connecticut Judge Barbara Bellis temporarily blocked Jones from moving personal assets abroad after the plaintiffs alleged that Jones tried to hide assets to avoid paying.
“Like every other cowardly move Alex Jones has made, this bankruptcy won’t work,” Chris Mattei, an attorney representing Sandy Hook families, said Friday. “The American justice system will hold Alex Jones accountable and we will never stop working to enforce the jury’s verdict.”
A Jones lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters news agency.
Bankruptcy can be used to eliminate debts, but not if they result from “intentional or malicious injury” caused by the debtor. Jones’ lies seem to meet that standard, says Susan Block-Lieb, a professor of bankruptcy law at Fordham University School of Law.
“Defamation is quite clearly an intentional tort — it’s especially evident in the case of Alex Jones,” Block-Lieb told Reuters news agency.
Meanwhile, Jones continues to host his show. On Thursday, Jones hosted Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, who made a number of anti-Semitic remarks and praised Hitler.